|Valdosta St. beats NW Missouri St. 25-20 for Div II title|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 15 December 2007 12:05|
Michael Terry scored with 22 seconds left and Valdosta State beat Northwest Missouri 25-20 Saturday, making the Bearcats the first team to lose three consecutive D-II title games.
Terry's 1-yard TD run capped an eight-play, 37-yard drive sparked by Willie Copeland's four straight completions for 27 yards. Valdosta (13-1) overcame a 14-3 halftime deficit in dropping Northwest Missouri to 12-2.
``I don't know if words can describe the disappointment that I feel for these guys,'' Bearcats coach Mel Tjeerdsma said. ``They've done a great job and we've had a great run. They got beat by a very good football team.''
Valdosta State's William Montford intercepted a desperation pass by Joel Osborn with 16 seconds left to preserve the win, and Blazer fans swarmed the field, soggy after a cold rainstorm blew through.
``We had a four-game playoff run, and in every game we played we were either behind at the half or tied,'' said first-year Valdosta State coach David Dean. ``Our kids never panicked; you never felt like they were out of the game.''
Valdosta made its first trip to the championship since 2004, when it beat Pittsburg State 36-31. Northwest Missouri has lost three straight title games by a total of 12 points.
The loss was a rough end to a tough week for the Bearcats, who had to fight ice in the Midwest and fog in Alabama just to get to Florence. Not that the trip was all that easy for the Blazers: They had a 430-mile bus ride from southern Georgia.
Copeland threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Clay Callaway early in the third quarter, and the Blazers went up briefly at the start of the fourth quarter when Zach Parker caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from running back Ronnye Nelson, a former quarterback.
Northwest Missouri answered less than a minute later with Xavier Omon's 2-yard touchdown run, but Maurice Leggett blocked the point-after and Roger King grabbed the ball and ran the length of the field for 2.
The teams swapped punts twice before Valdosta State took over at the Northwest Missouri 37 with 4:01 remaining after a short punt, setting up the winning drive.
Valdosta State passed almost twice as often as it ran the ball, gaining just 34 ground yards to 271 through the air. Northwest Missouri's play selection was more balanced, but the Bearcats gained only 148 yards passing and 87 yards rushing.
Valdosta State linebacker Michael Cullen said the defensive front never played better.
``All across the line they just got after it and just manhandled them up front, which made it easier for everybody else,'' he said.
The Blazers held Omon, the nation's leading rusher, to 63 yards on 27 carries. Osborn was 18-of-28 passing for 148 yards with a pair of interceptions. Omon ran for 292 yards in the semifinals against Grand Valley State.
``(Valdosta) stacked the box,'' Omon said. ``They had a great game plan going in. It's a big disappointment.''
Copeland completed 29 of 44 passes for 257 yards and just one interception despite getting sacked four times.
Northwest Missouri built its early lead on a dazzling 31-yard interception return by Aldwin Foster-Rettig, who grabbed a tap off the fingertips of Valdosta State's Cedric Jones, and a 3-yard touchdown pass from Osborn to Mike Peterson.
Valdosta State's Zac Williams' kicked a 35-yard field goal, but Tommy Frevert was wide left from 40 yards for Northwest Missouri.
Terry was Valdosta State's leading rusher with only 36 yards on 12 carries.